The flu, otherwise known as influenza, is an incredibly contagious disease that has been widely available for many years. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can still catch the flu, and in some cases, it can be deadly.
In 2019, just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia experienced its highest flu numbers on record, with more than 310,000 Aussies seeking medical attention for the disease.
Those numbers have since lowered, largely due to the social distancing efforts put in place to curb the pandemic, but that doesn’t make it any less important to arm yourself against the flu with the likes of the Afluria Quad flu vaccine.
The flu continues to cause GP visits, hospitalizations and, in severe cases, death. While social distancing and increased hygiene measures have reduced these numbers in the past couple of years, relaxed measures may see these numbers increase if/when the pandemic begins to subside.
What is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory disease that can be easily passed between individuals. There is a range of flu variants, but the main variants are A, B, and C. Most people in Australia contract influenza type A.
Influenza types A and B are always changing, forcing scientists to develop new vaccines every season to ward off new variants and strains. People typically catch the flu in the winter months and this is why vaccination is more in-demand at this time.
What is flu vaccination?
Influenza vaccines produce antibodies inside the human body which provide necessary protection against infection. Each year the vaccine protects the human body against the strains which scientists believe will be most common. These vaccinations generally cover three or four variants of influenza. The National Immunisation Program-funded vaccine covers the two strains of influenza type A and B that will be most commonly circulating.
Vaccination prevents around six from 10 healthy adults (under 65) from getting the flu. Flu types are always changing, so this means the vaccine can’t always be effective for every recipient. This being said, the risk of serious illness is reduced for people who have received the flu shot and still get sick.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
The flu carries similar symptoms to the common, however these symptoms can be more severe. Symptoms include:
- Fever & chills
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Body aches & pains
Is COVID-19 similar to the flu
COVID-19 and the flu can be contracted in similar ways, but they are caused by different viruses. This being said, many of the symptoms, including cough, sore throat, fever, fatigue and a runny nose, are similar to that of the flu. However, COVID-19 appears to be more contagious and potentially more severe than the flu.
There are now separate vaccines available to protect from both COVID-19 and influenza. These are two different vaccines and you require both to protect from their respective illnesses. These vaccines cannot be administered on the same day and there is a 14-day interval between receiving different types of vaccines.
Although the primary health focus this year is vaccinating Australians against the threat of COVID-19, the gravity of the flu should not be underestimated. The flu can cause serious illnesses like that of COVID-19, so it’s still a good idea to arm yourself this year and in coming years from the nasty influenza.